How to Cope with the Pain of Grief
Anyone who loves someone or something will inevitably experience grief at some point. Death and loss are part of life. The finality of death can make grief seem as staggering and endless as the vacancy left in our hearts, memories, and minds when our loved ones pass.
If you allow yourself to feel whatever you feel as you mourn and reach out for support from friends, family, or a therapist, you can get through your grief without getting lost in its dark waters.
What is Grief?
Grief is difficult to define. It can be loosely defined as the natural response we have when we experience loss, especially in the form of the death of a loved one, whether the departed is a friend, spouse, family member, or pet. Grief is a process consisting of moving through layers of complicated emotions. We all experience grief sooner or later, but grief is often experienced in a very individual way.
Grief doesn’t follow rules or timelines. The pain of a loss can be influenced by the relationship itself or the circumstances of the loss. Sometimes we know that the loss is a possibility, but in other cases, the loss may be sudden due to an accident or other unforeseen event.
The age of the deceased, the life he or she led, and how you felt about the relationship you shared can all have a profound effect on how you will grieve. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Some people experience acute grief that lasts for a short time but may come back at other moments in the future. Other people experience a type of grief called complicated grief that seems to linger, causing suffering that can span months or even years. You may experience both forms of grief at some point in your life.
Grief consists of pain. Grief can be accompanied by sadness, anger and guilt, inability to eat or sleep normally, loss of control over emotions, and a variety of other symptoms that take a toll. Grief is a burden on top of the terrible burden of the loss that brought it.
Grief can also feel like physical pain. It may be a dull emptiness that leaves you fighting tears or it may be a sharp stabbing sensation that collapses your body as it unexpectedly takes your breath away. Grief can be born from a mere thought, a memory sparked by a scent, or a song.
It is important to realize grief must be faced to be accepted. It can’t be ignored or suppressed. Only when you face your grief will you come to terms with your loved one’s absence and the corresponding pain and sadness the separation caused. Only then, will you start to feel better, the loss still there but less painful and less persistent.
Ways to Cope with Grief
Although grief can leave you feeling exhausted and lost, you will feel better if you make yourself eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest to make up for the stress and turbulent emotions you have experienced.
Spending time with your friends and family can help you deal with your grief. If you don’t feel that you have enough support from them or you feel that they do not understand what you are going through, consider joining a support group for individuals who are grieving.
Helping others who are experiencing the same loss, such as other friends or loved ones of the deceased, can also help you feel better. Sharing that connection, exchanging stories about the deceased, and just knowing that someone else understands are all ways for you to comfort others and yourself.
Acknowledging and accepting your emotions is a part of the process. You might feel emotions that cause you distress or make you feel guilty. Your feelings are normal the way wounds cause discomfort as they heal. Your feelings do not make you a bad person.
You may feel worse when mourning if people in your life fail to understand your grief. This is especially true for individuals grieving the loss of a beloved pet or even those who grieve a major yet different type of loss like a divorce or the loss of a job or home.
Know that you are entitled to feel grief over a loss, even if it is not the death of a person. You don’t need anyone’s permission to grieve. Seek out people who are understanding instead of people who don’t seem to understand or empathize.
Most people can recover from loss by maintaining their habits, taking care of themselves, and seeking help from others when they need it.
Although many people are familiar with the five stages associated with grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, current research suggests that most people don’t move through all those stages in any predictable sequence.
There is no timeline for mourning, but time itself should help ease your grief. However, if you feel unable to accept the loss, continue to blame yourself, question whether life is worth living as a result of the loss, and these feelings and thoughts that correspond to your grief do not abate, you should talk to a therapist.
A therapist will listen. Therapists are trained to navigate through difficult emotions associated with grief like fear, guilt, and anxiety. Your therapist will help you explore how to manage your grief and help you find a way back to your life.
Grief is a process, but it shouldn’t be a destination. If you are stranded in your grief, please reach out for help. You are entitled to grieve, but please don’t isolate yourself.
Feelings of grief are intense and can be difficult to overcome, but you can get past your grief. Once you do, you can cherish memories without feeling assaulted by the negative emotions tangled in grief.
If you are grieving a loss, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced counselors here in Jacksonville, Florida at the Jacksonville Center for Counseling.
If you are not located near us or find yourself feeling upset after hours, visit the Verywell Mind website for a list of grief support groups.